When Compass School's junior class went to Nicaragua this past spring, we were fortunate to stay, work, and learn with La Mariposa Spanish School. This incredible organization uses the money raised from the Spanish school to employ 80+ local people in 15+ community projects, including animal rescue, rainforest rehabilitation, pre-school and literacy programs, a center for kids with disabilities (using the rescued horses for equine therapy!), and delivering water to local communities, just to name a few. Unfortunately, with the political crisis in Nicargua, La Mariposa has been forced to close its Spanish school and is sustaining its programs on donations only. Please help them avoid permament closure!
To see the projects you would be helping, see here: https://www.facebook.com/asociaciontierra/
Here is a message from the founder:
As many of you will know Nicaragua has suffered two months of extreme instability and violence. Watching TV on the evening of Thursday 19th April, instead of the news there was a second episode of my favourite soap opera (I am ashamed to admit!). I did not think too much of it as I was tired from a day at the nature reserve releasing iguana, rescued from Mercado Oriental where they are sold for food, back into the wild. But the next day news started to come through that a peaceful protest, mainly of students, against the proposed Social Security reforms had resulted in a then unknown number of protestors being shot dead by police. Two workers at La Mariposa were concerned for their friends at the Polytechnic University who had barricaded themselves in fearing further police attacks. Several of us from La Mariposa went with them to the UPoli on the Monday to take in medical supplies as there were also many students inside with gunshot wounds. The sight was absolutely shocking.
Since then, the battle has been essentially between protestors who now include not only students but campesinos and, surprisingly and perhaps somewhat worryingly the association for large companies (COSEP). There have been several larger marches, the most notable being on Mothers Day, when snipers opened fire killing several marchers. The violence has escalated between the anti montines (anti riot police) and the opposition, blowing up in different cities on different days. Masaya has been one of the worst affected, the center is almost totally destroyed. But Jinotega, Leon, Granada, Jinotepe…….all have had their nightly share of violence. As I write, the death toll is over 160, almost all young males, many students with 2000 injured and many disappeared.
The other form of opposition has been the building of roadblocks which have been very effective in preventing movement across the country and therefore impacting hugely business interests. Many working people have now lost their jobs and in the cities some are suffering acute food shortages.
Small businesses are suffering the most from the economic fallout and of course tourism has completely fallen off. We have been severely affected, with cancellations as far ahead as August. At present we are closed, at least for the month of June. It is heartbreaking as we were set to do well this year, having recovered from Hurricane Nate (only 6 months ago) we had about 15 groups booked in and the hotel fully booked for several weeks. All that has gone.
We are determined however to survive and have developed a number of strategies to do so.
Our weekly budget has been reduced from $5000 (already cut from the normal $10,000) to about $2000. This has been achieved by:
- Putting the workers on a quarter time/pay instead of half time. The last of our students have now left - the place already feels a bit like a ghost town, such a contrast from how busy and buzzing we were just 2 months ago – but we will continue to find ways to keep everyone employed albeit at much reduced pay.
- Our projects are now on 50% functioning….it is important to keep them going not just for the workers but also to demonstrate to all sectors of the community our goodwill and good intentions. It is hard to cut the animal budget by much more but we have persuaded the vet to work a little more cheaply and we are going to be pursuing a SPONSOR an animal campaign which we will follow up with a Sponsor one of our disabled children attending our Chispa de Vida project.
- Increasingly growing and harvesting our own food – keeps people employed as well as reducing the food budget. Of course it means eating what is in season – at the moment that means avocados and mangos. Not so bad! - In general, we are aiming to function much more as an NGO than as a business as we really have no idea when tourism may return to Nicaragua. Our NGO here in Nicaragua is called Asociacion Tierra and we ask everyone who supports us to like the facebook page where we will be posting updates on all of the projects. And share with your friends.
- We are going to push our ability to offer SKYPE classes (at $12 an hour) to help keep some of the teachers employed. Also we are going to put our Spanish materials on sale online. If you are interested in either or both of these, contact Josimar at email@example.com.
- We hope to reopen La Mariposa, the Spanish school and eco hotel, in August/Sept. We will not be able to offer a full activity program as some of the places we visit have been severely affected but instead a program focusing on volunteer work designed to help rebuild the community and the environment.
LA MARIPOSA PHILOSOPHY IE WHY WE ARE WORTH SAVING!
As you may know we are a genuine not for profit socially and environmentally dedicated enterprise, based essentially on the principles of fair share and social/economic justice, caring for people, the earth and animals. So no one gets high wages or lives in a large house and no dogs are tied up! All of our income is used to employ over 80 local people and support 15 or so community and environmental projects. Clearly this is all now at risk and the signs are that even if the situation is resolved today, this will not recover anytime soon. We have spent tens of thousands of dollars over the past decade, setting up a huge project for the disabled children in the community, helping refurbish health posts, helping to set up a natural health clinic, helping schools with a whole range of projects including English classes, arranging for stray dogs to be cared for and neutered, providing tankers of water to two communities completely without a municipal supply….sorry to boast!
The Sandinista government has done a great deal of good for Nicaragua since they were reelected in 2006. I have been here consistently since then (I never leave) and have seen the improvements in health and education. The impact of various projects on reducing rural poverty has been dramatic. I have seen, for example, the virtual disappearance of child malnutrition in Panama, one of the poorest barrios of La Concha and where La Mariposa has also done a great deal of work. However, criticisms of how the government operates have been mounting in the last few years. Allegations of corruption, at first pretty small potatoes by international standards, have gotten steadily more serious with recent rumors, for example, of government involvement in illegal logging of precious woods, the deliberate ignoring of the destruction of rainforest (particularly in Bosawas and Indio Maiz) probably, in my opinion, for the planting of palm oil and establishing yet more huge cattle ranches. These developments benefit a few local poor campesinos but many lose out. Most recently, we have seen the accusations that government officials have been spending our Social security payments to fund their own (failed) private enterprises. These issues, and more, have been simmering just below the surface for years but have exploded with the present crisis.